Friday, March 07, 2014

Reggie Torres out as Kahuku coach

Lee Leslie, who was a graduate assistant on Ron McBride's staff in Utah, said he accepted the job as head football coach at Kahuku on Thursday.

Leslie replaces Reggie Torres, whose teams won two of the past three state titles and three overall since he took the job in 2006. Torres is second only to his predecessor, Siuaki Livai, in state titles among OIA coaches.

The change comes as part of principal Pauline Masaniai's review of the athletic department. She took over Dec. 24 and invited every coach of a fall sport to re-apply for their positions.

The school will hold interviews for girls volleyball coach Tehani Fiatoa's position next week. Fiatoa said on Thursday that she would not reapply. Boys basketball coach Darren Johnson, who also serves as Torres' offensive coordinator, said he didn't intend to apply when interviews start for that position.

Leslie, 53, was the head coach at Kuna (Idaho) High, and has 17 championships to his credit. He has also coached in Arena Football 2. His most recent title was at Bishop Kelly in Idaho in 2010, when his team went undefeated. He has molded four different prep football programs into powerhouses.

"It sounds like a challenge and I am excited," Leslie said. "I know there is a lot of passion and talent there. My teams are used to going up against Kahuku from the Hillcrest Camp, when we would get into fights in the daytime and get together for dinner afterwards."

Leslie, a motivational speaker who describes himself as an "ex-quarterback," said he likes to throw the ball, but that talent will dictate his scheme on offense. He will work at the school, but the capacity has not been determined. He thinks it will involve getting students qualified for college, whether working on ACT and SAT prep or some other role.

"I am always overly prepared," Leslie said. "Whenever a college recruiter comes around I have an entire folder (of a kids' accomplishments) ready for them. College is the main goal."

Leslie plans to visit the North Shore for the first time next week, and start as soon as he can get things settled with his family back in Idaho. He has a wife, three children and three grandchildren.

Leslie was at Kuna for just one year but improved that program from 2-16 the previous two years to 7-3. He landed at Kuna after AF2's Boise Burn suspended operations while he was the head coach.

As for Torres, he still had not been notified of the school's decision on Thursday night. With an opening at Moanalua, he could easily land on his feet, but he is reluctant to leave his alma mater, where he has won 11 total state titles — six in wrestling, three in football and two in judo.

"The Moanalua job looks real attractive to me, with the principal and AD and coaches there," Torres said. "The only thing that holds me back is that I am a Red Raider and can't leave these kids. Maybe in four or five years after this crop graduates I will look for something else."

***

They finally got him.

All those people who never wanted this good, humble man running their program — a person who also happened to be a winner — can be happy now.

Reggie Torres is no longer the head football coach at Kahuku High School.

And the prep sports scene in Hawaii is the worse for it. The Red Raiders don't just lose a fine coach, we all lose the lasting impact of a leader who develops character and discipline in youth.

It's not that Torres didn't bring home the hardware, either.

But I guess three state championships in eight years isn't enough. Or Torres hasn't done enough lately; the Red Raiders finished 6-5 overall and 5-1 in conference in a rebuilding 2013 season.

Last I checked, those are still winning records.

As we've seen, standards are often ridiculous in sports. But it's one thing when coaches of professional and college teams are unceremoniously dumped after one season that didn't result in a championship. When it happens in the high school ranks for no apparent reason to a good coach and better person, practically on the heels of consecutive state titles? That's just sad.

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